HIT Trends: An Easy Way to Stay Current

health care trendsWe are all busy and it can be tough to stay current on industry developments.  Our heads are down, working hard, with nose to the grindstone.  It is certainly no exception for me.  Between the HL7 course I’m taking and the small business platforms we’re building, I haven’t logged in to my Google Reader account for about 3 months.  Staying up-to-date can sometimes seem like a job to itself.

Staying current used to be a pain until I discovered HIT Trends from Circle Square Inc.  HIT Trends is a monthly report summarizing all the major health information technology trends.  In about 30 slides, Michael Lake covers the key points of the most important HIT articles, each article getting a single slide.  Each slide is packed with information but is easy to understand because of the heavy use of bullet points and of diagrams.  Not to mention that each slide has a 1-2 sentence editorial where summaries and trends are pointed out explicitly.  The slides are grouped by domain so it is easy to get the information you really need without having to hunt for it.

Kudos to Mr. Lake for putting these reports together.  Check out his company’s website, www.circlesquareinc.com, for a complimentary subscription to HIT Trends.  You’ll wonder how you got along without it!



Ron is a BCS founder; he can be contacted at ron's email address image. BCS was formed in 2010 in order to meet the increasingly complicated IT needs of the health care community. We offer experience in IT ranging from enterprise application development (J2EE, .NET) to Professional Services Consulting, Support and Project Management. The founders at BCS have over 20 years experience in health care and financial services industries.


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The Only Thing I Hate More Than Social Networking

You have a new great idea for a product or service that touches upon a business area you aren’t totally familiar with.  We’ve all been there at one point or another.  Without a deep background in that particular business domain you can’t tell how good your idea really is.  You may have an intuition that you’re on to something, but it’s prudent to validate those intuitions and assumptions before investing lots of time and resources into exploring it deeper.  I recently found myself in this position, and I hated it.  The only thing I hate more is social networking. I don’t Tweet, rarely am I on Facebook, and I don’t play Words With Friends.  And yet I recently found myself at the crossroads of social networking and a need to understand a business domain in order to validate a software proposal.  Nuts.

In the software world one of the first design & analysis exercises developers will perform is use case design.  This exercise essentially forces the developer to write out the flow of how a user interacts with a software system that he or she is trying to develop.  Use case design requires a deep understanding of the end users, the process and the business.  If you think you’ve got a great idea for a new software application that you think solves a need in a particular business area that you are not incredibly familiar with then quite quickly a stopping point has been reached; without an understanding of the domain there are no use cases, and without use cases you have no software. Double nuts.

Enter LinkedIn.  Ok, I do occasionally use LinkedIn to maintain my network of professional contacts.  While LinkedIn is great at allowing you to search for people and send messages to people in your network  you can’t send messages to people outside your network (besides requests to be added as a contact).  All of my connections are friends, people I work(ed) with, or know tangentially through others, which means that my network is pretty restricted to my own areas of expertise.  Although LinkedIn has a great search engine for finding people it seemed at first that it wouldn’t be any help in reaching out to them.  Just as I was ready to write off LinkedIn as a potential source for information I discovered LinkedIn’s neat feature called InMail.

InMail is a service offered by LinkedIn which basically allows you to send an unsolicited message to anyone on LinkedIn for a small fee.  For $19.95 you receive three email credits, and LinkedIn guarantees a response in 7 days. If you don’t get a response within those 7 days then you are credited for that email.  If a response comes in on day 8 then you get to keep your credit.  This money back guarantee makes reaching out to strangers very low risk, financially.

I’m not one to rant and rave about a service, particularly if it’s related to Social Networking and costs money.  But in this case I have to hand it to LinkedIn.  A LinkedIn search for people with expertise in a very specific field and who were based in the Boston area resulted in over a dozen hits.  We read the LinkedIn profiles of each person in the search result and decided to contact some of them using InMail.

Afters purchasing some InMail credits we crafted a 4 paragraph note which explained our purpose for contacting the recipient.  Our note concluded with a request to join us on a 30 minute call to answer some questions we had to help us better understand the domain.  Think that would be tough to get a positive response?  Me too.   In fact we received a 66% positive response rate. Most who responded to our emails were actually very enthusiastic to help us out, and seemed almost eager to teach us their understanding of the business domain.  Setting up conference calls was a non-issue.  I was shocked.

Searching LinkedIn we found a very specific group of professionals with experience in a very specific domain.  And using InMail we crafted a very targeted message to local professionals and were able to tap into a pool of local knowledge and generosity at very little cost- much less than comportable sites such as Zintro and Guro.  And, these people are now part of our network. So maybe I was wrong about Social Networking all these years…maybe I should reconsider Words With Friends.



Matt is a BCS founder; he can be contacted at matt's email address image. BCS was formed in 2010 in order to meet the increasingly complicated IT needs of the health care community. We offer experience in IT ranging from enterprise application development (J2EE, .NET) to Professional Services Consulting, Support and Project Management. The founders at BCS have over 20 years experience in health care and Financial Services technologies.


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HIE Leaders Roundtable “Discussion”

On Tuesday I attended the HIE Leaders Roundtable webcast sponsored by National eHealth Collaborative (NeHC).  The event was billed as “a unique roundtable discussion that will focus on critical success factors for establishing an HIE, as well as an exploration of the challenges and obstacles to achieving sustainability and building community support.”  The participants were mostly high ranking members of various HIEs (HIE the noun).  Kate Berry was the moderator of a panel that included:

  • Allen Byington – Executive Director, Big Bend RHIO
  • Devore Culver – Executive Director and CEO, HealthInfoNet
  • Dick Thompson – Executive Director, Quality Health Network
  • Keith Hepp – Interim CEO and VP of Business Development, HealthBridge
  • Kimberly Alise – CEO, Sandlot
  • Mark Jones – COO and Principal Investigator, SMRTNET
  • Michael Matthews – CEO, MedVirginia
  • Russ Thomas – President and COO, Availity
  • Ted Kremer – Executive Director, Rochester RHIO
  • Tim Cromwell – Director of Standards and Interoperability, Veterans Health Administration
  • Tom Fritz – CEO, Inland Northwest Health Services
  • Claudia Williams – Director, State HIE Programs, ONC
  • Jason Kunzman – Senior Program Director, Beacon Community Program, ONC

It was interesting to have some brass from so many different HIEs together (about half the crowd was in the room and the other half on the phone).  The vast majority of the time was spent expounding the strategies and business models of each individual HIE; most people merely pointed out differentiators of their HIE.  This is understandable given the varied participants but somewhat unfortunate because I feel like there was little discussion about *why* each HIE operates as it does and *how* each HIE achieves sustainability and provides value.  To call it a discussion would be a stretch, it was more like a presentation without slides.

That’s not to say that I didn’t learn anything.  Here are some interesting nuggets that I picked up in the 90 minute webcast:

  • There are currently three separate ACO efforts going on in the state of Maine.
  • A significant percent of veterans get care from the private sector.
  • Many of the HIEs are actively participating in the DIRECT Project.
  • Big Bend in Florida is provider-governed and that is perceived to be a significant asset.
  • Tactics for consumer engagement include the use of article banks and household mailings.

Lastly, in other news, Google Health is being retired.  According to Aaron Brown, Senior Project Manager of Google Health, it “didn’t catch on the way we would have hoped”.



Ron is a BCS founder; he can be contacted at ron's email address image. BCS was formed in 2010 in order to meet the increasingly complicated IT needs of the health care community. We offer experience in IT ranging from enterprise application development (J2EE, .NET) to Professional Services Consulting, Support and Project Management. The founders at BCS have over 20 years experience in health care and Financial Services technologies.


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Getting in the HIT Fast Lane

As has been mentioned in previous blog posts, we are technology experts with some experience in health care but not a whole lot of experience on the clinical side of health information technology.  Wanting to help health care providers and administrators solve technology problems, we realized this was an area we should probably bone up on.  When I have a problem I usually try to tackle it head-on, so I did what any reasonable person in my position would do… I applied to medical school.

Not.  I truly appreciate the time and energy that clinicians put into their education however med school would be a BIG commitment which may not be wise to undertake.  Instead, Matt and I have conducted our own research project to familiarize ourselves with the industry and its issues.  This research project ended up being really helpful and I definitely learned a lot.  I can pretty well navigate the alphabet soup that most health care CIOs roll of their tongues with ease.  But I felt like I needed another, deeper level of information and insights, though I wasn’t sure how to get it.

It has always been my experience that when you go the extra mile, you get the good breaks.  I was dutifully reading through another slideshow on Meaningful Use that I easily could have glossed over when, on the last slide, there was a bullet point about some grant programs to educate health information professionals in anticipation of the shortage of qualified professionals needed for EHR implementations.  This sounded interesting.

glasses on a text bookSome Googling brought me to an HHS page which described the program.  Turns out the HITECH Act set aside a bunch of money ($36 million) to educate information professionals all over the country.  The curriculum was developed by outstanding institutions like Johns Hopkins University and Duke University.  The classes are being administered via community colleges all over the country, they are *free*, and are taken 100% online.  This is exactly what we needed!

We are now almost half way through the six month program and so far I am very impressed.  The workload is pretty intense but the content is outstanding.  Curriculum topics include the following:

  • Culture of Healthcare
  • Usability and Human Factors
  • Quality Improvement
  • Fundamentals of Health Workflow
  • Terminology in Healthcare
  • Working with Health IT Systems

Does any of this content sound interesting to you?  Let me know in the comments below and I’ll do a deeper dive in a future post.

Lectures are posted online and may be attended at your own pace.  Each unit has required assignments which are typically either writing a short paper or participating in a discussion forum.  There are quizzes and final exams.  It’s been a while since I’ve been in school so it has been an adjustment getting back into a learning environment 🙂

I’m really optimistic that this program will give us the education and confidence we need to begin helping improve health care information technology.  I should note that there are three roles in each of these courses: IT, Health Care, and Clinician.  I would highly recommend this underpublicized program for health care people of all backgrounds, not just the IT crowd.



Ron is a BCS founder; he can be contacted at ron's email address image. BCS was formed in 2010 in order to meet the increasingly complicated IT needs of the health care community. We offer experience in IT ranging from enterprise application development (J2EE, .NET) to Professional Services Consulting, Support and Project Management. The founders at BCS have over 20 years experience in health care and Financial Services technologies.


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The State of the Union’s HIT

Becoming an expert in anything takes a lot of dedication and hard work and when your target is the US health care industry you need lots of both. We at BCS have been studying the US health care industry, as it relates to Information Technology, in an effort to become experts, and in-turn launch our new venture.

Suffice it to say I recently have been reading a lot, blogs mostly, about the current state of the US health care industry, health care related information technologies, and changes that experts and policy makers predict will be coming this decade. If you haven’t been doing the same let me tell you health care related IT is incredibly complicated and many changes are afoot. Also, as it turns out there is a term for health care related IT – it’s called health care Information Technology, or HIT – go figure.

I’ve learned much about the health care industry and the effects on it by recent legislation – at least enough to hold my own in conversation. The most obvious and significant fact I uncovered thus far, as it relates to changes in the US health care industry and HIT is this: the US Government is aggressively pushing for sweeping changes in health care delivery process and payment structures, as well as the HIT systems used by institutions and providers. Translation: there are lots of opportunities for hardware and software vendors (and possibly money to be made) in this area.

The vehicles for these changes are the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) act. The PPACA is the formal name of President Obama’s health care reform legislation, and the HITECH act is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (stimulus bill).

This blog is where the founders at Barrett-Cormier Software LLC (BCS) will be contributing back to the HIT discussion. Because this blog reflects the interests of its authors you’ll notice that we will be focusing on a few key aspects that were extracted from PPACA and HITECH. In particular you’ll notice us writing quite a bit about

  • unique HIT needs of ACO’s
  • EHR’s (successes, failures, implementation complexities)
  • Meaningful Use adoption and it’s impact on HIT
  • HIE’s and REC’s
  • our take on the push towards the [Patient Centered] Medical Home [2.0], and
  • open source health care software.

There are many other excellent blogs out there which dedicate themselves to similar topics and are written by leading industry experts. This blog, however, is going to approach these topics from a different perspective, one seen from the eyes of an HIT vendor/consultant, and written by people who learned technology first and health care second. We at BCS think this perspective will lead to interesting discussions and insights here on . We hope you will visit us often and let us know your thoughts.



Matt is a BCS founder; he can be contacted at matt's email address image. BCS was formed in 2010 in order to meet the increasingly complicated IT needs of the health care community. We offer experience in IT ranging from enterprise application development (J2EE, .NET) to Professional Services Consulting, Support and Project Management. The founders at BCS have over 20 years experience in health care and Financial Services technologies.


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New Company Turning Health Care on ITs Head

Hello and welcome to the new Barrett-Cormier Software blog for health care providers and administrators.  Barrett-Cormier Software LLC was started by Matthew Barrett and myself in 2010 to become the premier provider of health care information technology consulting in the northeast United States.  Our strong technical backgrounds give our clients a strategic advantage when it comes to making IT investments.  Both Matt and I spent several years working as consultants for larger software companies and finally decided to take the plunge and start our own venture.  We really want to have a bigger impact in these exciting times!

Matt has over 10 years experience in IT, working as a health care systems analyst, network and domain administrator, and imaging/workflow consultant.  Matt holds degrees from esteemed schools like WPI and Northeastern University.  Matt would be too modest to say it but he is almost always one of the smartest people in the room 🙂  Matt will be writing about topics like Medical Home 2.0, EHR Implementations, and Health Information Exchanges.

stethoscope with laptopI too have over a decade experience working in information technology.  I’ve had stints working in application development, support, and implementation for the health care and financial industries.  I’ve also owned my own web design/software company since 2003.  My dedication and determination are two of my greatest assets.  I’ll be writing about Accountable Care Organizations, the Direct Project, and the business of health care IT.

In this blog we will provide some unique feedback from the front lines of health care IT.  We will also offer our insight on technology and policy to give you a strategic advantage when it comes time to make IT decisions for your organization.  We understand the impact that technology decisions can have on your business.  We will post every two weeks to keep the content fresh and exciting.

We truly value your opinion so leave comments!  Let us know what you like, where we are off base, and any articles you’d like to see.

Thanks for visiting,
Ron



Ron is a BCS founder; he can be contacted at ron's email address image. BCS was formed in 2010 in order to meet the increasingly complicated IT needs of the health care community. We offer experience in IT ranging from enterprise application development (J2EE, .NET) to Professional Services Consulting, Support and Project Management. The founders at BCS have over 20 years experience in health care and Financial Services technologies.


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